Thursday, May 17, 2012

Memo to Tuesday's Board meeting on Water Agency Conference

I attended the Spring 2012 Association of California Water Agencies conference last week.  I think it's a pretty good use of time, both to attend panels and to meet people facing similar challenges but with different perspectives.  Below is the memo I distributed at Tuesday's meeting about the conference.  I hope to follow up on a number of the items.

Board of Directors and Staff
Brian Schmidt

Report out on Spring 2012 ACWA
May 11, 2012
I attended the Spring 2012 ACWA conference in Monterey on May 10 and 11.  In addition to the usual benefits of attending the conference and meeting people, I want to draw attention to the following: 
 1.    Solar power on canals and reservoirs
I talked to two solar power exhibitors, SunPower and SolarCity.  I asked both of them if anyone had used canals or reservoirs as areas to place solar panels.  Both brought up the potential advantage of reducing evaporation and the “free” space you wouldn’t have to rent or buy.  Both also mentioned an experiment by a winery that set up panels over a small reservoir/pond using a series of pontoons.  Neither company was the contractor in that case and the experiment has not been repeated.  They believe maintenance would be expensive.  SolarCity said something like it has been discussed for the State Water Project.
 I mentioned to both of them that there might be advantages in many districts in reducing algae growth in reservoirs, and that our District in particular might benefit from reduced mercury methylation.  They hadn’t considered those potential benefits.  I told them this was just speculation on my part, and both said that if the District is interested, they’d be happy to talk to us.  My impression is that both thought this would be difficult. 
 2.    Region 5 discussion – renewables funding, LNG vehicle fleet conversion, Prop 26
At our regional membership meeting, Energy Committee representative Dick Quigley (Alameda County) reported out that the California Energy Commission had potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of grant funding available for renewable energy projects that water districts should consider.
 He also said that natural gas costs are now so low that he is asking his agency to study whether it should convert much of its vehicle fleet to LNG solely for economic reasons.  My understanding is that there may be no greenhouse gas benefits from LNG due to methane leakage, but that other air pollutants are reduced significantly.  I think it would be worth following up with his agency to examine their results.
 The legal affairs committee representative said a new handbook on Prop. 26 will be distributed soon. 
 3.    AB32 and tidal wetland restoration
One panel focused on cap-and-trade.  Afterwards I talked to panelist Joel Levin of the California Climate Action Reserve, a state-created nonprofit that certifies third party carbon offsets that can be sold to entities that have to comply with greenhouse gas reductions.  I asked him if they have done any work with tidal wetland restoration as a carbon offset.  He said they had and believe the technique could be used as a carbon offset and therefore a financial benefit to those who are certified as creating the offset.  However, they presently do not have an accurate estimate of how much carbon is sequestered in order to certify an offset.  It is an ongoing area of scientific analysis.
 There are two other barriers to Water District benefits from tidal wetland restoration as a carbon offset.  First, we don’t own the baylands that are being restored – the federal government does.  However, we are helping restore them, so we might be able to reach an agreement to share in any offsets created.  Second, the Reserve does not now accept offsets created on federal land, but it is working on eliminating that restriction. 
 4.    Water recycling legislation
WateReuse California, ACWA, and Sierra Club are trying to come to agreement on supporting legislation that would change primary oversight of recycling wastewater for indirect and direct potable reuse from the Water Quality Control Boards to the Department of Public Health, which is seen as helping facilitate the use of recycled water.  I talked to two of the panelists afterwards.  The Sierra Club advocate emphasized how they prioritized conservation over recycling.  I mentioned that I thought recycling had one benefit in that it made desalination less likely, a statement that I think dismayed the ACWA advocate. 
 5.    Other
Representatives from Semitropic Water Storage District were there.  They invited any of the District directors to come out and visit their facilities.  I believe we are either their largest or one of the largest partners.  They said they are expanding storage capacity and withdrawal capability.
 The Special Districts Foundation offers leadership training and certification for directors and staff.
 I particularly enjoyed a panel loosely based on the TV show Jeopardy format, featuring our own Joan Maher as one of the contestants.  I also heard very complimentary things said about the quality of our staffers from other people present.

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